Army TSX Files: 01/12

Defense is at a premium in the Patriot League, and it's the backbone of the Black Knights' game plan. In each of Army's losses this season, the Knights have allowed more than 60 points. But they are undefeated when they keep an opposing team below that mark.

   Fortunately for former Cornell assistant turned Army head coach Zach Spiker, his team is quickly adopting a grind-it-out mentality and pressure defense that bodes well for the low-scoring squad.
   Despite the play of guards Cleveland Richard (12.9 ppg) and Julian Simmons (13.1 ppg), the Black Knights lack a consistent offense. They are seventh in the conference in scoring with 61.9 points per game, and while they are adept at forcing other teams into shooting slumps, they are prone to slumps of their own.
   Against Colgate on Jan. 9, for example, they were held to just five points in the overtime period (the Raiders scored 15).
   Over the last few seasons, Army has made strides in the Patriot League, twice earning wins in the league tournament. With American taking a step back, the Black Knights look poised to take over the top of the top perch in the conference. If they do, it will be their defense that wins the day.

   --The Black Knights had high hopes for Julian Simmons coming into the year. The guard, in his sophomore season, leads the team with 13.1 ppg.
   --Army has a consistent pressure defense that has stifled conference opponents. Its 58.6 points per game allowed is best among Patriot League teams.
   ON THE SPOT: Army's gritty defense can certainly shut other teams down, but the Knights have to start making some clutch baskets. Against Portland on Jan. 2, they shot just 35 percent from the field and never recovered from an early 18-0 deficit; on Jan. 9, they were held to just five points in the extra period of an overtime loss to Colgate. Coach Zach Spiker must find a way to implement some consistent scoring, perhaps being more physical underneath to draw free throws in the wake of scoring slumps.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's always things we can improve upon. That doesn't mean to say we haven't had some success this year. We all need to do a little more. We have to work together to find a way." -- Zach Spiker on his team's mentality in the early part of conference play, as told to the Times-Herald Record.

   SEASON RECAP: The Black Knights have allowed more than 70 points just three times on the season. With Julian Simmons and Cleveland Richard having emerged as two of the most dynamic players in the conference, Army cruised through non-conference play, but critics (and conference opponents) will inevitably question how good the Knights really are, taking into account a very favorable first-half schedule.
   PLAYER ROTATION: Usual starters -- G Cleveland Richard, G Marcus Nelson, G Josh Miller, G/F Julian Simmons, F Chris Walker. Key subs -- F Jeremy Hence.
   Portland 67, Army 57
   Army 59, Brown 51
   Colgate 68, Army 58 (OT)
   at Holy Cross, Wednesday, Jan. 13
   vs. Lehigh, Saturday, Jan. 17
   vs. American, Wednesday, Jan. 20
   at Navy, Saturday, Jan. 23
   at Lafayette, Wednesday, Jan. 27
   IN FOCUS: Holy Cross is not a good defensive team, which should help the Knights' anemic offense. And Army's defense figures to be the difference in the game.
   --In September, Army added freshman Ella Ellis to the roster. Ellis, a 6-6 forward from Houston, Texas, played at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School last season. He was named the USMAPS Most Improved Player and was listed among the top 100 players in the state by both and He is averaging 3.1 points and 1.5 rebounds off the bench.
   --Tyrell Thompson has been slow to come back from an ankle injury that sidelined through much of the first half. He played just four minutes and didn't register a point against Brown on Jan. 6. Top Stories